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Dev Neurobiol. 2011 Dec;71(12):1212-26. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20905.

The retinal mosaics of opsin expression in invertebrates and vertebrates.

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Department of Biology, Center for Developmental Genetics, New York University, USA.


Color vision is found in many invertebrate and vertebrate species. It is the ability to discriminate objects based on the wavelength of emitted light independent of intensity. As it requires the comparison of at least two photoreceptor types with different spectral sensitivities, this process is often mediated by a mosaic made of several photoreceptor types. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge about the formation of retinal mosaics and the regulation of photopigment (opsin) expression in the fly, mouse, and human retina. Despite distinct evolutionary origins, as well as major differences in morphology and phototransduction machineries, there are significant similarities in the stepwise cell-fate decisions that lead from progenitor cells to terminally differentiated photoreceptors that express a particular opsin. Common themes include (i) the use of binary transcriptional switches that distinguish classes of photoreceptors, (ii) the use of gradients of signaling molecules for regional specializations, (iii) stochastic choices that pattern the retina, and (iv) the use of permissive factors with multiple roles in different photoreceptor types.

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